There was an online game I used to frequent before it went into what appeared to be maintenance mode and stopped getting content and story updates. That game, The Secret World, was one of my favorites as it let me experience a current-world setting filled with mystery and the occult, but could also let me use magic, melee, and guns to defeat enemies.
Its first main landmass was a New England fishing village taken over by Lovecraftian horrors, and was my favorite setting of the available places to visit in the game, as it was essentially modern-day horror made palatable, and easier to enjoy because the RPG mechanics made exploring and reading stories of people in palpable existential danger fun.
Redfall, developed by Arkane Austin and published by Bethesda Softworks, released earlier this May, and I received review code to play the game and put it through its paces.
I was excited by the prospect of playing it, because I felt that the setting – vampire gods taking over a town and threatening humanity – brought back feelings I had towards The Secret World. I was stoked at the idea of someone taking on the idea of an accessible spooky RPG-shootergame.
Unfortunately, despite initial excitement, I had to temper myself after some hours and eventually stopped playing Redfall, not because the setting was uninviting, but because there were aspects of the game that detracted from the experience so badly as to make it a frustrating slog even in the opening bits.
Only turrets want you dead
One of my main issues with Redfall is that the enemy behaviors do not mesh well with the type of gameplay it wants to invoke.
As a first-person character-based shooter, you expect this game to be something like an RPG explorer’s FPS. Do you get to shoot human baddies? Yes. Can you shoot vampires, then stab them with a stake or expose them to fire or ultraviolet radiation? Quite so.
However, the gun-toting enemies, even on the Midnight difficulty setting (aka the highest difficulty before unlocking an even higher setting in a future playthrough) seem hesitant to shoot you. They fire infrequently, and oftentimes have a tendency to miss.
The vampires are predictable as well, as the primary vampire enemy fodder tries to speedily run past you and then attack from behind while you’re trying to look for them, but sometimes their pathing just causes them to not move or not attack at all.
The most egregious offense to my survivability, as a result, was not the vampires, the cultists supporting them, or any other armed enemies. Instead, it was the turrets placed down by some enemies that have lasers targeting you at all times and are relentless in their gunfire, without a seeming need to reload at all.
A practical audiovisual mess
There are aspects of the user interface – like the map and the compass system – that feel like a mess. The game doesn’t give you very good indicators of where you are as there’s no heads-up display giving you real-time location information. Instead, you pull up your map, which tells you where you are on the landmass, and what direction you’re facing.
Landmarks for missions you take are highlighted, but the exploration comes in when you figure out that there’s poisonous gas or some other impediment getting in the way of a direct beeline to an objective, forcing you to find an alternate means of getting to an area.
Worse still, the user interface for the compass in safe zones, most especially the firehouse you liberate at the start of the game, shows all the contextual shops and people you can interact with in a confusing circle around the player, which is a bit of a turn-off.
Also of unfortunate note is that some audio logs you pick up can at times play in unison with any other audio log you pick up while it’s playing. If you have subtitles turned on, it shows both subtitle sets for those both audio bits on the screen as well, but luckily, they’re not superimposed over each other at least.
A feeling of limited replayability
Lastly, there’s also a feeling of limited replayability from Redfall.
The game is set up with a strange sort of mission structure wherein mission completion of branching paths opens up new primary story missions… but there don’t seem to be a lot of them in total.
You’re basically diving into a mystery, but all primary story missions with branching paths have to be done eventually to open up new story missions that lead to the conclusion.
Based on this, and the fact the games tell you these are all non-repeatable missions, leads me to believe that you’ll want to play this on whichever of the four characters – cryptid hunter Devinder, college psychokinetic Layla, engineer Remi, and the sniper Jacob – you find most interesting or whose battle skills you enjoy most, then just consider playing through the whole slog again for more audio snippets from the new character you’re trying out.
Worse still, and I had to search this online just to be sure, you don’t get to do anything after defeating the final boss as the game just chucks you at the beginning again, so you lose out on any unfinished business you had going on.
Now, these aren’t my only issues, but these were the most glaring issues I had with the game.
I played Redfall by myself, but it’s an always-online game you can play with friends as different characters, but there’s no matchmaking to smooth out the process of multiplayer, so I didn’t try it anymore.
The game doesn’t appear to allow for pausing, so things can happen even when things are happening in the real world and you could die and lose progress (respawn at a safezone and redo traveling) just because the wild called and they wanted you in the bathroom.
I also hate how the characters seem to glide around when they run, as if they were vampires themselves, which was really off-putting, but that seemed so minor to be a legitimate concern… unless you take everything in its totality.
Redfall is a $70 game, and I cannot recommend it at that price point unless you’re willing to enjoy an unenviable slog through a horror-infused small town. It’s not going to be everyone’s horrorful good time, but if you have a hankering for inoffensive vampire god-slaying, this is your funeral, take that as as you will.
The Secret World it is not, and while I wanted it to be more than what it is, I chose to drop it from my gaming rotation till they could smooth out the rough edges and it warranted a revisit with prayed-for fixes.
So far, they’ve only done a minor patch, with no announcements regarding a post-launch roadmap to date.
My recommendation? Much like a good cryptid hunter, you should wait and see: Wait for performance patches, and see if the price is lowered significantly to warrant that fabled revisit. That said, it’s also on PC and Xbox Game Pass, if you wanted to consider it as a game to rent for a playthrough or test run than to own. – Rappler.com
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